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What Should I Be Thinking About In High School Already?


sk16

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I'm a senior in high school and I've known I've wanted to do medicine for awhile now. I've applied for undergrad to several universities in Canada including UBC, U of T, Waterloo, Queens and U of S (I'm from Saskatoon). Right now my first choice is UBC because it's a great school and according to the medical school's admission stats, BC health care card holders have a 20% chance of acceptance. I've applied to engineering as my undergrad because I love physics and I figure if I don't get into medical school an engineering degree is super useful. Also, biomedical engineering (which I want to do) could give me some good experience for a med app. I consider myself privileged having a father, grandfather and great grandfather who are all physicians as I have already had many opportunities to see what being a doctor is all about. What I'm wondering is what I should be doing now that could help my chances of getting in down the road. I have an uncle who is a plastic surgeon that is willing to let me volunteer at his clinic for a week, would something like that be useful? Should I be trying to get service hours, do volunteer trips, read any books? Any advice would be appreciated.

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Doing engineering in your undergrad could potentially be detrimental to your GPA, which is the most important factor. It's true it's a good back up compared to other degrees, but there's a risk. That being said, some engineers are able to maintain a high GPA but you'll have to work harder. 

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Protect your GPA above all else, work in ECs slowly after you adjust to university, and that's pretty much it. You don't need direct health care experience, so only volunteer at that clinic if you genuinely want to. As you take on ECs, talk to profs, etc. keep reference letters in the back of your mind. Meaningful volunteer experiences and extended relationships with profs (upper level courses, research) will lead to the best letters.

 

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be prepared, but remember that the vast, vast majority of "pre-meds" don't end up even applying, let alone getting in. Take it slow and try to do well in your courses before worrying about the other stuff, you have a lot of time.

 

edit: Volunteering abroad won't help you, don't do that even if physicians in your family suggest it, it's not viewed favourably anymore

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Every school is different in Canada so it's hard to give a consensus answer. Research each school and find out what they look for in particular. I can tell you U of Manitoba doesn't really care for volunteering but others look closely at it. Getting involved with the community or University in such a way that interests YOU will be the most beneficial because it will show more authentically during interviews (and you'll actually enjoy it).

As for undergrad the same principle applies. Follow whatever path you want to learn about most and challenge yourself but don't neglect the core sciences some schools require for admission (eg: Biochem I + II). The choices you make can also save you a bit of excess work in tackling the MCAT. 

Having family involved in medicine is a huge perk because shadowing is normally incredibly hard to do pre-med in Canada so sponge up as much of that as you can. It will help with seeing what the daily life is actually like as a physician and solidify your understanding and expectations of the job allowing you to portray that later on.

There's plenty of resources and forums on the schools you're interested in out there. I'd recommend looking at the actual school admission websites before focusing too closely on forum-based answers. Good luck!

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The most important attribute or competency you can bring from high school is a serious attitude toward academics and a strong work ethic! There can be a difficult even brutal adjustment from h.s. to university. The only person to push and check up on you is "yourself". When I commenced undergrad, I wanted to live with you regrets and therefore, I treated my academics as if it were my profession. I allowed no distractions. One potential distraction can be a significant other. If your s.o. is unstable or needy, you will be involved in a disaster in the making which can torpedo your chances. You will need to know how to study well, what works best for you to learn. I became an independent learner and developed good time and stress management skills, and I knew how to prioritize. I waited until my academics were under control before undertaking ECs and volunteering. In terms of activities, adcoms will want you to demonstrate CanMEDS competencies and altruism, empathy and compassion by activities during the normal academic year while you are taking a full course load from September through May, i.e., be an active citizen while withstanding the rigours of a full course load.

 

It is helpful that in your program, you take a program that you are passionate about - as this will dramatically affect your grades. GPA is king, and you need a Plan B in case medicine does not work out. Be warned that engineering is a very tough program and it is exceedingly difficult to attain a competitive GPA for medicine in engineering. It can be done but don't count on a competitive GPA necessarily.

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First of all, good for you for thinking ahead, planning, and asking for advice. That already gives you a significant advantage.

 

Med school entrance is extremely competitive and you might not get it. Seriously consider what you would enjoy doing as a back-up and study that.

 

Keep a high GPA (but if you do it by taking "basket weaving 101" courses in 4th year, schools will notice).

 

Even if your med school doesn't require them as pre-reqs, taking courses in some of the MCAT topics (1st-year phys, 1st-year chem, organic chem, biochem, biology, psych, soc, humanities) will broaden your horizons and get you course credit while helping you prepare for the MCAT: three birds with one stone.

 

Start ECs early and stick with them for a long period of time. Do something you would enjoy but which also showcases your positive qualities; don't feel pressured to do standard pre-med stuff (like hospital volunteering ... not that there's anything wrong with that!). Team sports, long-term language learning, helping raise your younger siblings, flipping burgers to get some extra money while you're in school, etc. are all good options, too. The important things are long-term commitments and thematic consistency (i.e having what you do tell a story about yourself) ... but seriously, pick fun things because you'll probably be doing them every week for 4 years.

 

These are things I wish someone told me a few years ago. Good luck!

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Thanks for the replies everyone. In terms of GPA in engineering, I've spent many nights tossing and turning over whether it's worth the risk of a lower GPA in engineering or whether I should take an "easier" degree and go for a higher GPA. After looking at the U of S admission requirements, I found that GPA accounts for only 25% of the application, which is the same as the MCAT. The interview is worth 50%. I've decided I can always change plans after my first year if things are too tough.

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Understood.

 

Applying in the US is prohibitively expensive, they require proof you are able to pay the entire cost of 4 years, you will need either a cosigners on a loan in Canada or a US cosigner if you take out a loan in US.

Coming from a family of doctors...probably won't be an issue (But that may be me just making a gross generalization!).

 

That said, having an engineering degree, you would be given the benefit of the doubt in the US for a lower GPA compared to a Bio degree applicant, as long as you couple it with a decent MCAT. The US is much more holistic for medical applications. 

 

That said, this is well beyond the scope and unnecessary to worry about at this point!

 

Try out engineering, the first year is more or less the same as the science first year in regards to work load. If you like physics and math, then go for it!  Yes Engineering may be more difficult to maintain good grades, but doesn't mean its not doable. There are plenty of engineers in medicine and medical school. It provides a very strong foundation, and critical thinking for sure that would probably net you the skills to dominate the MCAT without much sweat.  And if things go south, you can always switch after first year without much consequence.

 

Like you said, UofS, the school that you'd have the best odds for, while looks at GPA, also is very heavy on the MCAT score for pre-interview. So a slightly lower GPA in theory(no reason you wouldnt even just get just a fine GPA as well!), would be offset by a MCAT score.   Being IP in Saskatchewan is a great option, make sure you look into if moving away alters that at all. I don't imagine it would - but find out for sure.

 

For your options, i would strongly promote UBC - getting IP at UBC is a huge advantage as well.  They again, look at academics equally to non-academics for pre-interview. So grades can easily be offset if you have strong non-academics.

 

A trend you will notice is that medical school admissions across canada vary greatly. Some schools will really weigh the MCAT pre-interview, while others will weigh your non-academics greatly. Some won't even care about non-academics. Some will look at your best two years, etc etc.  Over the years you will learn these differences, and tailor your application to those schools accordingly.

 

First and foremost, good luck with your engineering applications! Work hard, don't neglect your physical exercise(this can't be understated...if your body is in good shape, then your mind will follow) and be true to yourself and your passions. And be careful with ratemyprof. I've always found that complainers and whiners fill those bad posts, and i've taken many courses where people complained about a bad prof- and it turned out I actually enjoyed their classes and that the complainers were simply the students wanting their hand to be held, or on facebook/instagram the whole time during lecture.

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Wow, thanks for the advice! I just have one question, which may not even have to do with medicine admissions and may actually be about provincial citizenship. Right now I qualify for IP in Saskatchewan because I have lived in SK for at least 15 years. If I moved to BC and got a BC health care card by making my permanent residence there and being there for 6 months in the year, I would be able to apply to UBC as IP. Would this void my IP in SK? Because technically, according to the U of S admissions website, I'm still IP as I've still lived in SK for over 15 years in my life.

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Wow, thanks for the advice! I just have one question, which may not even have to do with medicine admissions and may actually be about provincial citizenship. Right now I qualify for IP in Saskatchewan because I have lived in SK for at least 15 years. If I moved to BC and got a BC health care card by making my permanent residence there and being there for 6 months in the year, I would be able to apply to UBC as IP. Would this void my IP in SK? Because technically, according to the U of S admissions website, I'm still IP as I've still lived in SK for over 15 years in my life.

W.r.t admissions, you go by UofS definition. So if they say you are still considered IP, because you lived in SK for >15 years, then you are good to go and get the BC care card to get IP in BC.

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Thanks for the replies everyone. In terms of GPA in engineering, I've spent many nights tossing and turning over whether it's worth the risk of a lower GPA in engineering or whether I should take an "easier" degree and go for a higher GPA. After looking at the U of S admission requirements, I found that GPA accounts for only 25% of the application, which is the same as the MCAT. The interview is worth 50%. I've decided I can always change plans after my first year if things are too tough.

 

I haven't looked into U of S particularly, but for most schools, you need to make a certain GPA cut off before you are even considered for an interview. I think that GPA probably accounts for more than 25% of your application pre-interview and plays a huge factor in whether or not you actually get an interview. I think you should absolutely do engineering if that's what would make you happy, but I just thought that you might want to consider this whole pre- vs. post-interview score thing if you haven't already. :)

 

Best of luck!

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Thanks for the replies everyone. In terms of GPA in engineering, I've spent many nights tossing and turning over whether it's worth the risk of a lower GPA in engineering or whether I should take an "easier" degree and go for a higher GPA. After looking at the U of S admission requirements, I found that GPA accounts for only 25% of the application, which is the same as the MCAT. The interview is worth 50%. I've decided I can always change plans after my first year if things are too tough.

It's good that you've considered this, however I don't think it's wise to risk GPA because you're counting on applying to or getting in to only one or two schools whether you're an IP applicant or not (UofS and UBC in your case). A lot can change between now and the time you apply in terms of admissions policies, and a respectable GPA plays a big role at getting interviews at most schools.

 

I'm not saying that getting a good GPA is not possible in engineering because I personally know of several individuals who've been very successful going down that route, but it is typically much more difficult than a traditional science program and I wouldn't take that chance given how competitive it is these days.

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I haven't looked into U of S particularly, but for most schools, you need to make a certain GPA cut off before you are even considered for an interview. I think that GPA probably accounts for more than 25% of your application pre-interview and plays a huge factor in whether or not you actually get an interview. I think you should absolutely do engineering if that's what would make you happy, but I just thought that you might want to consider this whole pre- vs. post-interview score thing if you haven't already. :)

 

Best of luck!

 

This is a very good point! Yes, the interview may be worth 50%, but your GPA/MCAT scores have to be high enough to be invited for an interview in the first place. 

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Take the course which you are most passionate about as thats what matters at the end of the day and med schools appreciate that. Yes keep your GPA high but also keep in mind they like people who are different and engineering is different and interesting compared to the normal pre med blah blah

Take the course where you're most likely to get a good GPA. You can be as passionate and different as you want, but that won't help you if you don't have the marks to get an interview.

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Enjoy yourself, make friends, get good grades, stick to your hobbies, get a significant other, etc

 

 

Take the course where you're most likely to get a good GPA. You can be as passionate and different as you want, but that won't help you if you don't have the marks to get an interview.

You need a balance. GPA and interest. 

 

Taking a 4 year, 40K degree just because its 'easy' is a terrible choice. What if you DON'T get into medicine.....or what if you decide you don't even want to? I feel like only a very small percentage of grade 12's who said they wanted to be doctors are actually applying. Huge waste of time any money for a decision of a 17 year old who may or may not have much knowledge of being a doctor-or other careers to be honest. 

 

That said, I wouldn't have done engineering, or english for that matter, because of GPA. 

 

There is a critical difference between not picking a program because it could hurt GPA and picking a program solely for GPA

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Take the course where you're most likely to get a good GPA. You can be as passionate and different as you want, but that won't help you if you don't have the marks to get an interview.

I would argue that people who are passionate about a subject are more likely to do well in that subject. That is certainly the case for me and I'm sure other people can attest to it. Plus the courses I was passionate about were actually the more difficult ones and I did better in those classes compared to classes which were much easier.

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